I remember the very first RPG I completed on my own. The year was 1999, and Final Fantasy VIII had just been released for the original PlayStation. The game was massive! It was overflowing with cutscenes, minigames, a majestic full score, including the hit Faye Wong single “Eyes on Me,” all spread across four discs worth of material. Of course, it had better have been impressive: The game’s budget was $30,000,000, with a development team of around 180 people. Flash forward to 2022, and the landscape has changed entirely. Today, retro-style RPGs and minimalism are all the rage. One person can literally create a complete RPG by themselves and release it on a mobile device and still find success. Such is the story of Almora Darkosen, a hack-n-slash RPG that is the passion project of just one man.
Almora Darkosen has been in the making for nine years from sole developer Grzegorz Borkowski. This fact alone is enough to generate interest in the title, but the gimmick would quickly wear off if it didn’t stand on its own merit. No, you’re not going to get the big budget, graphics, and extras you’d find in a Netease or Blizzard release, but who would expect that from a single developer? What you do get is a quality retro RPG filled with weapons, magic, minigames, and quests that’ll keep you entertained for hours on end.
When I started Almora Darkosen, I was immediately reminded of Exiled Kingdoms. In my review of that old-school RPG, I mentioned how the aesthetic felt as if I was gaming on a PC from the mid-’90s. I got the same vibe from Almora Darkosen.
With its top-down perspective, the graphics and controls are simple and straightforward but highlight some pretty cool details in their own right. By picking up shovels and pickaxes, I could interact with the environment around me, dig for materials, and use the tools as weapons. Finding materials is meaningful because Almora Darkosen is equipped with a full crafting system that allowed me to create various health items and stat boosters from the raw materials I collected.
The narrative is complex, or at least it presents itself in a complex manner. In fact, it felt like I was reading ten minutes’ worth of screen text before the game even started! But, I can sum it up in a sentence. Essentially, you’re on a quest to find your missing brother when you crash-land on a cursed island. Your goal is to save the island and find your brother. BOOM! I could’ve saved Grzegorz Borkowski eight years of lore writing! Hopefully, he calls me for his next game!
Despite the overly lengthy intro, Almora Darkosen offers a quality main storyline alongside plenty of sidequests to enjoy. It was fun wandering around and speaking with various NPCs in-between quests. I was also able to recruit mercenaries into my party, which I enjoyed.
When it comes to gameplay Almora Darkosen is missing some of my favorite bits and pieces I like in my RPGs. No, I couldn’t customize and change characters at the beginning, and I couldn’t choose my beloved rogue class! But it does offer hundreds of items, equipment, cool abilities to use on opponents, and fully customizable skill trees to add uniqueness to your character. I pushed my character toward a poison build but also had the opportunity to mix and match with abilities from the fire skill tree.
Dying comes at a cost in Almora Darkosen, as you’ll lose experience when this happens. This penalty could be frustrating, but it shaped how I played and urged me to prioritize strategy. The stakes were higher than in many RPGs, so before I blindly ran into an area, I had to make sure my power points, which enabled me to activate cool skills and abilities, were topped up and my potions were fully stocked.
Almora Darkosen isn’t the greatest RPG I’ve played and far from the greatest RPG ever. But I would consider it a damn good game even if I knew nothing about its unique development history. The base game is free with ads, which is pretty amazing for a game of this scope. Removing ads and accessing a handful of extra features, including an encyclopedia of all the monsters, is only $5. Essentially, you can pay the price of a cup of coffee at a pricier coffee shop for one man’s decade-long toil. Not only is Almora Darkosen fun to play, but it’s a genuinely impressive example of what a single person can do when they put their mind to it. Download it and see for yourself.
SCORE: 4 STARS OUT OF 5
PLAY IF YOU LIKE:
• Exiled Kingdoms. If you enjoyed this old-school RPG, especially its visuals and hack-n-slash elements. You’re going to find a very similar experience in Almora Darkosen.
• Indie developers. If you’re the type that specifically looks for titles from smaller studios that fly under the radar, then look no further! It doesn’t get smaller than one man working on a single title for nearly a decade! Check out Almora Darkosen and see the fruits of his labor.
💬 Did you enjoy Almora Darkosen’s retro style? And what are your favorite indie titles? Let me know in the comment section, and let’s chat!
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